Saturday, April 11, 2009

Interactive Aristocracy

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
My name is Heather Reddig and I'm the Executive Producer at Your Majesty Co. We're a creative agency founded by Swedes and based in New York, dedicated to excellence in advertising, design, and communications. Your Majesty has quickly been established as a well-known interactive agency, partly because of the reputation of the staff but also because of numerous award-winning productions for clients such as Cisco, American Express, Yahoo!, Vitamin Water and The New York Times. 

Q: Interactive Producers come from all walks of life, they are a hybrid of talents, tell us about your background and how you got interested in digital production?
When I was a child, I was sulking about not having an Atari when all my friends had one. To shut me up, my dad taught me how to build my own games on a Tandy 100, using BASIC. I signed onto  around 1990, and I was totally sucked into bulletin boards, and I've been stuck on the internet ever since.  I graduated with an English major and film studies minor, and just kicked around at various jobs - from waitress to record store girl to insurance broker to animal caretaker intern at a zoo. The first job that was pure internet was working as a web project manager for an insurance company. I did the PMP/Six Sigma thing for a bit, but really wanted something way more creative. So I moved to New York and got into digital advertising. It seemed to be a natural fit for me - I got to be surrounded by creative people, interested in the same things I was, and essentially nerd out all day.
I'm going back to school this Fall, I've just been accepted into the Masters of Media Arts program at the New School. It will be tough sometimes, I'm sure, to balance work and school, but I think it's going to be rewarding. I'm excited to learn about media from a theoretical perspective rather than a business/production perspective, and I'm looking forward to a cross-disciplinary focus across all types of media - film, audio, digital, social, etc. 

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
We're a pretty small group, and we're constantly passing things around to each other through emails, etc. We're also an eclectic bunch, with all sorts of different interests and talents, so our inspiration is not just limited to emerging technologies, but music, fashion, design, art, film, books, politics, ad campaigns, history, current events, economics, stupid online videos, photoshopping eachother's faces into ridiculous photos. I also have a huge mess of RSS feeds that I try to keep up with. And finally, my friends - word of mouth is key. 

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
I like clients who know what they want and are looking to take risks. I also like the projects that involve a bit of everything - video, audio, 3D, post, mobile, installation, etc etc. I also like informationally-heavy sites, where information architecture and user experience is very important. Being in a small agency, I get to be a part of pretty much every project from start to finish, which is great, because I get exposed to all sorts of stuff that I wouldn't necessarily be aware of in a big agency.
Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
This is why project documentation and communication is so important. I author or co-author almost all of the project documentation, from proposals to SOWs to detailed project plans to functional requirements and IA to technical specifications. Some clients are familiar with all of that, others, who may be working on their first web project, don't know what to expect. I make sure that every client understands the documents that they're approving, and if they have any questions at all, to please please please ask me. My goal is to make every client feel comfortable asking me any question, even if they think it's dumb, because it's so much better to be over-communicative than under. 

Q: What was the best project you have ever worked on?
I'm not trying to avoid playing favourites here, but tend to like whatever I'm working on now the best. I'm happy to have a job where I get to do something new every day - it's the nature of the digital space. 

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
It really depends on the project. I like to have a lot of stuff going on at once, as I get to be exposed to more clients, products, ideas and technologies. You also become more efficient in the day-to-day stuff, and sometimes the snap judgements you make are the best decisions of the project. But slowing down and concentrating on fewer projects is nice too. 

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
If I could add a few people I've worked with over the years to the team I work with right now (creative and development), that's it.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
I think what defines a producer is the ability to critically assess a project, to be able to identify and manage not only the when and what and how, but also the why. Understanding why a project is being undertaken is the link between not only the producer and the client, but also the producer and his/her internal teams, and also ensures that no one loses sight of the big picture.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?

If I knew that, I'd be rich already. But I like to think I'm prepared for anything.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Always look for that one thing in every project to learn from. 

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